Easy Vanilla Buttercream

How to make perfect vanilla buttercream – Easy to make with just four everyday ingredients, and ideal for cupcakes, sandwich cakes, macarons and decorated celebration cakes.

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A close up of a vanilla cupcake topped with a vanilla buttercream rose in a purple cupcake case.I’ve been meaning to add a buttercream recipe to my blog for ages and just haven’t quite gotten around to it. I think part of my reluctance to post was that I’m not the best at piping and so had no idea how to present it to show off it’s yummy deliciousness.However, a couple of day’s ago I came across this 3-second buttercream rose tutorial by Toni at Gym Bunny Mummy. She made it look so simple that I couldn’t resist whipping up some vanilla cupcakes and a batch of buttercream to give it a try.

I was pretty pleased with the results *smug grin* so I decided buttercream finally deserved a place on my blog.

Vanilla cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream on a cooling rack.

I’ve shown it here as cupcake frosting, but it’s extremely versatile and can be used for all sorts of cakes and desserts – cupcakes, sandwich/layer cakes, macarons and, my favourite, as a delicious buttercream layer beneath the fondant icing on the decorated celebration cakes I make for my family. If you’re making my all-in-one vanilla sponge birthday cake, then this is the recipe I use for the buttercream.

A vanilla cupcake topped with vanilla buttercream with more cupcakes in the background and a piping bag.

What’s the secret to perfect buttercream?

Buttercream is extremely simple to make. However, to ensure that you can create beautiful cakes with it you need to make sure it’s the right consistency.

At this point I want you to imagine you’re making a sandwich. I’m sure that, like me, you’ve experienced those times when you’ve taken the butter out of the fridge and attempted to spread it onto your sandwich only to find that you end up ripping the bread to shreds instead – butter still in one lump, bread with a great big hole in the middle. Now imagine how soft your butter needs to be to ensure that doesn’t happen. That’s the consistency you want your buttercream – just spreadable, but not runny.

A stand mixer whisk covered in vanilla buttercream.

So how do you get your buttercream to the right consistency?

It’s important to ensure that your butter is soft in the first place – just spreadable (like you would use for that successful sandwich). The best idea is to leave it out of the fridge for a little while to soften. However, I find that if I forget, I can cut it into cubes and beat it on a high speed in my Kitchenaid and it softens pretty quickly (this only works because I have a powerful stand mixer. I used to try it with my hand mixer but I found my arm going round and round with the beaters stuck in the lump of butter instead of the butter softening as I wanted).

Unfortunately you start with the butter at just the right consistency and then add a load of icing sugar causing it to thicken up. So you need to soften it a little again.

This is where the milk comes in. Gradually beat in the milk a few drops at a time and check the consistency before adding more. For icing using 250g butter and 500g icing sugar I find about a tablespoon of milk is the right amount, but I add it at no more than ½ teaspoon at a time as other factors such as the temperature of your kitchen can also impact how soft the buttercream gets and it’s easy to add more but impossible to take it out.

Vanilla buttercream being piped onto a cupcake with more iced cupcakes in the background.

How to stop everything getting covered in sugar when you make icing?

I’ve no idea. Whenever I make anything with icing sugar everything gets covered. If anyone has any suggestions on preventing this please, please let me know!

A selection of vanilla cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream and a piping bag full of vanilla buttercream.

5 from 8 votes

Easy Vanilla Buttercream

How to make perfect vanilla buttercream – Easy to make with just four everyday ingredients, and ideal for cupcakes, sandwich cakes, macarons and decorated celebration cakes. Recipe VIDEO below.

Active Time 3 minutes
Total Time 3 minutes
Servings 12 cupcakes
Calories 312 kcal


  • 250 g unsalted butter
  • 500 g icing sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Approx. 1 tbsp milk I use skimmed but any is fine


  1. Cut the butter (250g) into cubes (about 1″) and beat in an electic mixer until soft.
  2. Add the icing sugar (500g) and beat until fully combined – I prefer to add the sugar a couple of spoonfuls at a time as this minimises the amount of sugar that flies out all over the kitchen! You’ll find that at first it’ll start to look lumpy but keep persevering and it’ll smooth out.
  3. Add the vanilla extract (½ tsp) and mix until fully combined.
  4. (See note about about the required consistency) Take a look at the consistency of the icing, is it spreadable? If not add ½ tsp milk and mix until fully combined. Check the consistency again and repeat until it is just spreadable.
  5. Once you’ve got the icing to the right consistency – have fun piping, spreading, or just licking if off the spoon!

Recipe Notes

This recipe makes enough for 12 buttercream cupcake roses or for a thin covering over a 20cm round sandwich cake with a layer in the middle (as I do for celebration cakes). You can find the recipe for my vanilla cupcakes here.

You may find you’ve got a bit leftover from your cupcakes but attempting a neat rose with an almost empty piping bag isn’t easy so I’d prefer to make a little too much. You can easily make as much or as little icing as you like depending on what you’re trying to cover.

Nutrition Facts
Easy Vanilla Buttercream
Amount Per Serving
Calories 312 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 25%
Saturated Fat 10g 50%
Cholesterol 44mg 15%
Sodium 3mg 0%
Potassium 5mg 0%
Total Carbohydrates 41g 14%
Sugars 40g
Vitamin A 10.4%
Calcium 0.7%
Iron 0.1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Watch a video of this recipe…

Fancy trying a different flavour of buttercream on your cakes?

Then take a look at my new recipe for delicious NUTELLA BUTTERCREAM

Looking down on some Nutella cupcakes topped with Nutella buttercream and a piping bag full of Nutella buttercream.

Free From/Suitable For…

  • Suitable for Vegetarians
  • Gluten-Free
  • Egg-Free
  • Corn-Free
  • Nut-Free
  • Soy-Free

The ingredients for this recipe are commonly available free from all these allergens. However, please ensure you double-check allergen information for all ingredients.

How to make perfect vanilla buttercream - Easy to make with just four everyday ingredients, and ideal for cupcakes, sandwich cakes, macarons and decorated celebration cakes.



  1. I made this buttercream yesterday after a disaster with my previous recipe and it was amazing! It actually made enough to fill a 4 tier small cake and spread round the sides for my crumb coat! Also delicious! I am wanting to make some more for cupcakes and I was just wondering if anyone knew whether it crusts?

  2. Hiya I been looking for a buttercream recipe for ages everytyme I try buttercream it does turn out right, I came across your recipe and it looks perfect I will try this, however what company butter did you use for it Please reply will be much appreciated

  3. hi charlotte
    can i whip thee butter for like 5 min to double in size and get lighter?

    • Charlotte Oates

      In order to get your buttercream lighter (in colour and texture) and full of air you need to beat you butter until it’s soft and then beat it again for 5-10 minutes after adding the sugar. The texture of the whipped buttercream is quite different to my original recipe due to the amount of air that’s been beaten in. My husband described it as having a similar texture to ice cream which I thought described it well. Personally I find it a little grainy and prefer the texture of the unwrapped version, but that’s just my personal preference. The colour of whipped buttercream is much lighter, not quite white, more of an ivory colour.

      If you wanted your buttercream to be even lighter in colour you could add some white colouring.

  4. Hi thank you for the lovely instructions.
    What attachment, paddle or whisk do you use when making buttercream?

    • Charlotte Oates

      I use the beater attachment for my kitchen aid. I find it’s better for getting the butter nice and soft and mixing in the sugar well without adding too much air compared to the whisk attachment.

    • Thank you so much for quick reply Charlotte. I can’t wait to try your recipes they look amazing.
      Best wishes

  5. Followed your recipe for both the celebration cake and buttercream, it was absolutely delicious. Everybody commented on how lovely the cake tasted. It was my first attempt at doing a celebration cake and I was really chuffed with it. The only problem I had was the ready to roll icing that I bought from a local supermarket which cracked when I put it on the cake. I had to use my creative skills to cover the messy bits up ha ha.

    Do you have any hints or tips on the best fondant icing/ ready to roll icing brands to use or anything I should avoid doing to prevent this from happening again. I’m going to attempt to do a simple cake for my sons birthday in a couple of weeks – a Disney cars theme.

    In terms of the icing going everywhere, I popped to ikea the other day and they do a mixing bowl with a detachable cover that has a gap in it which allows enough room for a mixer to fit through. It was great in stopping the icing sugar escaping.


    • My icing skills aren’t perfect and I’ve had cracks in the past. The things I’ve found that help to avoid cracks are:

      • Not having the buttercream too thick underneath and allow the buttercream to Harden before adding the fondant. If the buttercream is soft and thick the fondant will slip when you lay it on top.
      • Don’t roll your fondant too thin as then it’s a bit more forgiving. The ready-rolled fondant in the shops is very thin and I find it tricky to get it really smooth so I prefer to roll it my self and keep it a bit thicker (about 4-5mm).
      • Be vary careful when you lift it onto the cake. The weight of the fondant in the sides will pull down the top.
      • A cake smoother can be very helpful in smoothing out any little cracks and getting a nice finish on your cake.
      • I hope that helps.

      • Thank you so much. This definitely helps. I put quite a thick layer of buttercream on the cake and didn’t wait before I put the rolled icing on. Will try again next week with my son’s cake – wish me luck ha ha. Thanks again

  6. Hi I just both this recipe plus your birthday cake recipe for my daughter birthday it came out great- I’m now making another one but dont want to make buttercream to early party is Saturday it’s now Wednesday please help thanks samx

    • Charlotte Oates

      I’m glad to hear that the cake and buttercream turned out well. Do you have room to keep the cake refrigerated? If you do then you should be fine to make and decorate it today for a party on Saturday. When I bake the cake it’s usually good to eat until the middle of the week following a Saturday party so baking now should be fine.

      • Thanks for the quick reply I have everything weighted out on Side ready for the bake to commence all decorations r made I’m making a five tier ghost cake with fondant just draped over so really earthy for a party do u think this cake recipe will be enough to do in five different batches using a 6inch cake tin I’m rubbish with conversions 😉 x thanks sam x

  7. Really nice and easy recipe which I used to decorate some plain cupcakes and then used some sprinkles on top to make them look pretty . Tastes delicious as well.

  8. To stop sugar going everywhere I have a dedicated sugar tea towel that I dampen and place over my mixer. As I add the sugar I keep it covered and only end up with a little bit of sugar around the bowl and the rest is on the towel. Be sure to throw it straight in the wash though or the sugar creates a paste on the towel lol

  9. This buttercream tastes amazing, i couldn’t stop eating it. I’ll have to make more next time so I’ve got some left for the cake! I can’t believe how easy it is to make, just need to work on my piping skills.

    • I have the same problem, it’s always too tempting! Did you watch the video I linked to in the post? It’s a great little tutorial for piping the tops of cupcakes nicely.

  10. jojordan2003@hotmail.com

    thanks for this – helps me with my daughter’s birthday cake every year 🙂

  11. melissa christensan

    Thank you for this fantastic advice -from the recipe to the icing it was great. I hope to make a coffee icing (with chocolate) which was my mum’s recipe many years ago? Unfortunately I don’t have that anymore. I could use your chocolate one and add a small amount of good coffee (for the adults rather than the kids of course!).

    My son was learning cake baking, and it was your recipe we used. He’s nearly 16 and so proud of that achievement! Thank you so much.

    • I’ve not made coffee chocolate icing before but it should work if you make a combination of my coffee buttercream and my chocolate buttercream (basically make the chocolate buttercream and add the coffee made as in the coffee buttercream). Making the coffee as in the coffee buttercream recipe means it’s very highly concentrated so you don’t need too much of it to get the flavour coming through. My only concern is that the melted chocolate makes the icing softer than the vanilla buttercream I use as the base for the coffee one and adding more liquid might make it a bit too soft. I’d make the chocolate and very gradually add the coffee (no more the 1 tsp at a time) until it’s just the right consistency to use. Alternatively if you use dark chocolate instead of milk in the chocolate buttercream this will be firmer and create a better base for adding the coffee.

      Let me know how it goes if you try it.

      I’m glad you son is getting into baking and that the cake went well x

  12. Used this recipe in my daughter’s birthday cake. Absolutely delicious! Thanks!

  13. Hi Charlotte,
    I’m so glad I came across your blog! This recipe was so easy to follow and resulted in yummy cream!

    I think I may have mastered the art of not getting icing sugar everywhere – by wrapping your mixer with cling film! It works! There’s something scientific going on as no icing sugar escapes – not even on to the cling film!

  14. Hi Charlotte,
    Quick question do you think I can leave my butter creamed cake in the fridge overnight and put the soft fondant icing on tomorrow morning? My 9 week old is being really fussy today so don’t think getting the fondant icing on is going to be possible


    • Charlotte Oates

      Hi Rebecca, sorry for not replying sooner. The cake would be fine in the fridge overnight. In this warm weather it would probably help as it’ll help the buttercream set nice and firm.

  15. Would the cupcakes once decorated need to go in the fridge or could i put them in a container with a lid and keep out the sun?

    • Charlotte Oates

      Normally I’d be happy leaving mine out but in the warmer weather we’re having at the moment they’d be better kept in the fridge as the buttercream is likely to go funny in the heat.

  16. Tried this recipe today. Oh my god!! The best buttercream ever. So easy to make. I divide the buttercream into two. One is just basic vanilla buttercream. The other one I mixed it with crushed Oreo. Both taste amazing! Thank you for the recipe.

  17. Hi Charlotte, I am thankful for your buttercream recipe only to be a little frustrated with your metric system used for your recipe . Could you please be a little clear as to how many ounces (or cups ) of butter and icing sugar you use?? I would be grateful for your help.

    • Charlotte Oates

      The recipe is roughly 9oz of butter and 18oz of icing sugar. I’ve rounded up so that will give you slightly more buttercream than in the recipe, the most important thing is to use twice the weight of icing sugar as the butter. For cups it’s 4 cups of icing sugar and 1 cup + 2 tbsp of butter.

      • Patt Leivermann

        Thank you so much for explaining this to me. It was so very nice of you to take the time to do this. I just can’t wait to make this icing it sounds so good. Much love from Minnesota!!! Patt

  18. in answer to your problem of icing sugar going everywhere drape a damp tea towel around the mixing bowl and this will stop any icing sugar escaping , hope this helps works for me.

  19. Hey Charlotte, this recipe is great! Using it to cover and fill a birthday cake for my nephew, i just found it to be a little buttery so added in a little more icing sugar, but great recipe thanks!

  20. Hi my name is Karen I would like to no if you can put food colouring in the buttercream

  21. Hello, a tip not to get icing sugar everywhere:
    Mix icing in a food processor with the lid on, works for me everytime!

  22. Hi Charlotte! I’ve just made my first ever cake using your recipe and now I’m going to attempt the buttercream filling. Problem is, I don’t have a mixer so have to do it the old fashioned way – by hand. Is it possible to get the same consistency and fluffiness? I made the cake without a mixer too and looks perfect, but it seemed too easy, and I haven’t tasted it yet so it could be a complete disaster! I’m keeping fingers and toes crossed ….

    • I actually prefer buttercream made by hand rather than with a mixer as you get a lovely smooth consistency, I just use the mixer because it’s easier on the arm muscles! Make sure your butter is left out of the fridge for a bit before you want to make it to allow it to soften and you’ll be fine. I hope you enjoy your cake 🙂

  23. For stopping the sugar flying everywhere dampen a tea towel and wrap around the bowl of your machine and over the top.

    Works a treat. his the towel and sticks to it.

    Thanks for the recipe! Perfect for my upcoming birthday cake.

  24. Hi, I’m planning on making a 3 layer sponge cake, the tins are 7 inches. Do you think this recipe would cover and fill it or would I have to double up? I’ve never made a 3 layer cake before and im a bit worried.

    • Hi Aylish,

      I’m not sure one batch would be quite enough. Personally I’d make about 25% more (so use 315g butter and 630g icing sugar). The exact amount you need depends on how thick you want it, to be on the safe side you may want to go for 50% more (using 375g butter and 750g icing sugar). I hope that helps.

  25. Hi, lovely post, I’m looking for a new recipe to try and this one sounds tasty, any idea how long this will keep? I’m thinking with milk in it won’t last as long as the one I use now? Thanks ☺️

    • Charlotte Oates

      I’m not a food safety expert so this isn’t official advice, but I’ve eaten it a few days later and it’s always been absolutely fine.

  26. Love your blog ( which i came across yesterday when looking for a basic cake recipe for my daughters 13th birthday cake )….cake made last night, when she was in bed!!….icing today . Thanks for your help.
    ps i have a kitchen aid, which came with a plastic cover that sits on top of the bowl- perfect for stopping the icing sugar flying everywhere 🙂

  27. I find that putting the icing sugar onto soft butter in the mix in bowl, then forking it down by hand, stops the sugar flying everywhere. It only takes a minute and then you can use the mixer without a problem.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, I’ve been trying hand mixing the butter and sugar before beating it (to sort of coat the sugar in butter) and I’ve found that helps, your suggestion of using a fork sound similar but I think could work even better. I’ll give it a try next time I’m baking.

  28. Just discovered this blog it’s brilliant the best tip I can give you re: icing sugar going everywhere is if using an electric mixer etc is cover it with a tea towel…works every time!!keep up the great posts!!

  29. I sift my icing sugar into a stainless steel mixing bowl before adding to the butter in the mixer. In Canada there is cornstarch in the icing sugar & this is what causes most of the trouble. Sifting it into the stainless mixing bowl first seems to calm down the “electricity” in the icing sugar. Then I add it in small increments to the butter. Plastic bowls are the worst! HTH

    • Thanks for the tip Debbie. I hadn’t thought about the static making the icing sugar go a bit wild before. I always sift into a plastic bowl so I’ll have to give this a try and see if it makes things better.

  30. Love your piping Charlotte, I shall have to check out the tutorial!
    When I add my icing sugar I tend to add it in stages & mix it really slow with a spatula by hand to get everything half combined before I let the stand mixer take on the hard work – I still get a little icing sugar dust billowing up but not as much as with a beater.
    Angela x

    • Charlotte Oates

      It’s a great tutorial, I’d definitely recommend you take a look.

      I’ll try a little hand mixing next time and see if that helps.

  31. Clearly I could eat this vanilla buttercream by the spoonful. It looks so sweet and perfectly fluffy.

  32. “You may find you’ve got a bit leftover from your cupcakes but attempting a neat rose with an almost empty piping bag isn’t easy so I’d prefer to make a little too much.”

    This is so true! Or no matter how hard you try, you get a little pocket of air in the plastic piping bag. Boom! Icing bomb!

    With regards to the icing sugar question, I use the plastic splatter guard and mix at a very low speed initially. I still get a lot of icing sugar everywhere though.

    Your piping looks great as well. I love the pictures.

    • Charlotte Oates

      I already do the splatter guard and low speed thing with little success! By that point it’s too late anyway, I manage to cover everything in sugar just weighing it out!

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